Often accompanying the "Organic" title for many teas is the socially responsible label, "Fair Trade". This is a separate certification process, independent of how the product is grown. Fair Trade is based on the assumption that the market price paid to tea growers/laborers is not fair and does not promote sustainable living environments. In this way, Fair Trade is to the local economy and the worker what Organic is to the environment and the plants.
A Fair Trade premium of between $0.50 and $1.50 per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of tea is charged by the grower. In addition, the growers pay a certification fee in order to gain Fair Trade status. These premiums and fees go directly into the pockets of the laborers, towards developing programs at the local level, and towards funding the certification process, the Fair Trade operational structure, and marketing the Fair Trade brand internationally. For comparison purposes, the Fair Trade price for coffee is $1.35 per pound.
Producers must apply for certification through one of several Fair Trade Organizations (FLO, IFAT, NEWS, EFTA, etc.) that require adherence to the following criteria:
- 1. Fair Labor Conditions: wages, working conditions and living conditions
- 2. Direct Trade: no middlemen adding unnecessary costs
- 3. Community Development: investment in services and/or infrastructure to aid the community
- 4. Environmental Sustainability: agricultural methods that are "healthy"
- 5. Transparency: free association of workers and farmers and democratic decision-making
Because many tea gardens are small, family affairs without the means to participate in community investment or adhere to extensive bureaucratic documentation and auditing rules, an overwhelming majority of specialty tea producers are not "Fair Trade" certified. In some countries, like Japan, no Fair Trade teas can be found because the tea workers are already paid above the poverty level. This would be akin to demanding a Fair Trade wine from France.
Because the "Fair Trade" sourcing options are very limited, Adagio prefers to get involved directly at the source. While we support the IDEAS behind Fair Trade, we believe that, currently, the best way for us to raise the living and working standards of the growers is to introduce Americans to premium loose leaf teas. Premium teas fetch premium prices and require significant additional human involvement. The result is higher wages, more employment, and better tea for all of us. In addition, we buy all of our teas directly and choose our producing partners based, in part, on their business practices. Finally, we contribute directly to the well-being of the farmers through programs like our Roots Campaign
. As Adagio grows, our purchases result in meaningful changes in the lives of our producing partners and their employees.